Autumn is over, but the depression and despondency associated with it are not: There is too much global negativity around us. There is the pandemic, lockdowns, economic crisis, and the fear of losing freedom in the era of QR-codes. This is against the background of the sacralization of “depression” in social media. We asked some Russian pastors about how to accept these troubles and not to lose heart, how to overcome the anxiety and apathy that come from the awareness that nothing depends on us. We will be posting these discussions in four parts.
Priest Anthony Rusakevich, Tver:
Priest Anthony Rusakevich Nowadays people very often look for excuses for their actions so their conscience may be clear. They give very logical arguments to explain why they are right (this, of course, stems from pride) and always find a reason: spring, autumn, a crisis or the coronavirus, and for many this serves as an excuse for their tactless and boorish behavior. It is wrong to act like this. In addition, if we want to have a good mood and no blues, we need to filter any information we receive very thoroughly. There is nothing wrong with taking a walk in a park, admiring nature as it prepares for winter and watching birds—it’s a good and interesting activity. But instead, people very often watch the latest news and read social media where there is always a lot of negativity. And this is why they are always in a bad mood. And if they see that the weather is not as nice as they like, it still adds bad news. We always need to look at what is happening around us and try to find something good in it. Then it will be much easier to live.
As for trusting God, it all depends on the strength of our faith. If a person is a newcomer to the Church and is still on the way to God, then, of course, he relies more on his strength and believes that he can do very much. But when his faith becomes stronger, he understands ever more the omnipotence of God and that not so much really depends on him. Although we have full freedom to change our lives, we do not often use it. It is in this that the Lord gives us freedom: so we can get rid of fears, prejudices and superstitions. A believer is not afraid of anything because he knows that he lives with God every day. And even the pandemic becomes not so terrible because we know that the Lord is with us even in this situation, and if we observe all the precautions recommended by doctors, we reduce health risks. And, of course, our mood is important: If we are depressed, it may seem to us that everything is doom and gloom and we will all die. But if we look at life with joy and optimism, then even in difficult situations we will rely on God and hope for the best. This greatly helps us overcome illness, and it is much easier to endure what is happening around. And, of course, we need to limit the flow of information and avoid a large amount of negativity. People who constantly watch TV and read news sites cannot influence this in any way, but nevertheless they believe that they need to keep close track of events. They very often become despondent, seeing how many negative events there are around.
It is very good to read the prayer of the Optina elders. I recommend it to many now. There is an abbreviated version of this prayer. In it we ask God to give strength to accept what is happening around us and come to terms with what we cannot change, and reason to distinguish one from the other. If a person thinks in this way, he will not become discouraged. What is discouragement? Why can’t we accept the world around us? Because we begin to decide for God what should be and what should not be, how other people should behave, how the world should be arranged. This demonstrates our great pride. When we do not try to change the world by force, but try to change ourselves—first of all, to get rid of our sins—then life becomes easier, and we begin to see the world as the Lord created it, and we notice many more good things. And indeed, in difficult moments of life we begin to see that the Lord is near, that He helps us through other people. Through this our faith can be strengthened. Of course, when a person does not have sincere faith in God, he will always be afraid to live because he will always see bad examples around: how people are inclined towards sin, how sin has a destructive effect on their lives. Everything will be scary. Because of this many people choose various superstitions, fortune-telling, and magic. This simply shows that people do not have sufficient faith in God and they are looking for more support from outside. We need to strengthen our faith and get rid of sin. And little by little we will have completely different attitudes to everything—we will not drown in the vanity of life, as many people do and say that they are too busy to go to church. If we have different priorities, there will be time for everything.